Project management

How to Manage a Bespoke Software Project

Running a successful business is all about getting the best out of the people you work with. You need to manage sales teams, marketing teams, customer service teams and more. But that experience has probably taught you that managing different people with different skill sets can be a challenge. And that’s definitely true when it comes to bespoke software development projects.

For some, it can seem intimidating. There’s a temptation to just hand over the project to an expert developer and let them get on with it. But developing your bespoke software can’t be successful without your input. After all, it’s a collaborative process that needs your vision and your developer’s expertise.

Managing a project like this may be new to you, but it shouldn’t be a daunting prospect. If you’re clear on what your goals are, have buy-in across your organisation, and are prepared for the work that lies ahead, your project will run smoothly.

Here’s what to expect.

How to manage a successful bespoke development project

Before you begin, you need to fully examine the problems you’re looking to solve, or the opportunities you’re looking to take advantage of with technology. Even if you’re still unsure about the “how”, you need a concept of “what” you hope to achieve - and “who” is best placed to help you.

Once you’re clear on your vision, it’s time to share it with the rest of your company.

1. The importance of buy-in

If a complex project fails to realise your vision, chances are it’s due to a lack of clear communication and effective collaboration. So it’s vital that you communicate what you’re trying to achieve to other stakeholders, and explain how their collaboration is crucial to the project’s success.

Working with your development partner, make the business case. Outline the financial and technical requirements and limitations of the project, and gather information on the needs of users, customers and stakeholders. Make sure everyone is engaged - because you’ll need their thoughts and feedback later on.

Ask your development partner to show their expertise too - by backing up your big picture ideas with the small technological details, they’ll help win over everyone involved.

2. Remain realistic

With buy-in from your team, the next stage of managing your project is to agree on the details. While it’s tempting to ask for everything and anything, a successful project needs realistic specifications - and planning for contingencies. Discuss them with your development partner and agree on an achievable outline, one that will meet all of your goals and provide proof that they’ve been met.

3. Set milestones

With the deliverables agreed, set milestones. You need to know:

  • When prototypes will be available
  • When your teams or stakeholders will give their feedback
  • When any third-party integrations will be fully tested and brought online

By being clear and realistic, and remembering that the unexpected often happens, you can reduce delays and turn any bottlenecks into new opportunities for surprising improvements.

4. Test, test, test - and then test again

It’s tempting to believe that with the project specified, your job is now to sit back, wait, and read progress reports.

A more active management style will deliver better results. Instead of asking for documentation and reports, focus on getting hands-on with the software being created. Test it yourself, make sure your users can test it too, and provide this real-world data to your development partner.

All feedback is useful - and identifying how your users interact with software can lead to new opportunities to take advantage of.

5. Keep one eye on the future

You’re clear, communicative, realistic and involved. That means you’re managing your project well. But what about when the software goes live? Does that mean everything is finished?

No. A truly successful project continues long after an application or portal is launched. As your business changes, your needs change with it, and by keeping those lines of communication with your development partner open, you can enhance your bespoke system and future-proof your investment.

Managing the project is just part of a process

Actually managing a software development project is just part of a longer, ongoing process that begins with identifying the need for bespoke software and choosing the right partner. 

To make sure you’re picking the best possible partner, request a copy of our ebook: “The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Bespoke Software Company”.

It’s packed with insights from our decades of experience, and goes into more depth on the management process - including that all important stage of clarifying your objectives.

You’ll find additional advice on managing your project - including a sample timeline - along with insight into everything that happens before you start to manage the development itself, from deciding whether bespoke development is right for you through to weighing up the pros and cons of an offshore partner.

If you’ve already read our ultimate guide and want to know a little more about how Transition works with you to successfully deliver bespoke development projects, get in touch today.

Last updated:
July 2023

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